Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Getting ready to return to Sierra Leone

I returned back from a life changing 3 month stint volunteering in Sierra Leone almost 6 months ago and here I am packing my bags again for a return to the welcoming and beautiful Sweet Salone! Although it's still 2012 and I still look pretty much the same ALOT has changed.......

For many years now I have felt a pull towards the field of development, I really noticed during my studies at Globe Business College when all my essays and projects had a similar theme running through them. So I finally took the plunge at the beginning of this year deciding to get my hands dirty with some firsthand experience. I joined a small local NGO based in the East of Freetown, focussed on Water Sanitation, Solar Engineering and a variety of training programmes aimed at educating the youth of Sierra Leone. Initially this project filled all of my idealistic, romantic ideas of saving the world but soon enough the cracks started to show and reality set in.

After a few days in I started to feel the weight of what I can only describe as a 'dependency', being one of the few white people in this black country I felt people were looking to me for all the answers, to make everything better. Sure, I was there to share my knowledge, to work, to hopefully make a positive impact but the feeling I am trying to describe was more than that. It's a sensitive topic and completly subjective, but after some time speaking with people, locals, colleagues, other NGO workers and taking in my surroundings, seeing all the rusted signs of long-dead projects, great intentions, sponsored by people and organizations from all of the world I came to the conclusion that development, regardless of the good intentions, has the potential to exasperate the feeling of dependency and lead, at times, to disempowerment, although the goal may be empowerment. I realize this is quite a harsh, if not bold statement as there are many, many great projects making massive impacts, changing innumerable lives for the better, but I do belive the 'development industry' is saturated in Sierra Leone and there is room for other types of projects that focus on empowerment through fair and equitable business including skills sharing, trainging and education to help build a nation of people who realize and value their own worth and power to shape their own future.

I realize three months is a very short time and I have drawn some pretty strong conclusions, who knows, another three months may change all that. Right now, for me it is time to take a detour into the world of social business!  So I have quit my comfortable job in HR consulting, found a nice couple to take my apartment in Munich and I'm getting ready to take the next leap and head back to the beauty and mayhem that is Sierra Leone!

Tribewanted has everything I was looking for earlier this year when trying to figure out what alternative there could be to the traditional development approach. It is a simple idea involving community living and eco-tourism at John Obey beach, whereby 'tribe members' from all over the world are welcome to join and contribute to whatever extent they want. They are welcome to come visit, to work on the current community projects, encouraged to interact and learn from/share knowledge with the locals from going fishing with the fishermen to sitting around a campfire at night discussing the local history with the village chief. The project has been designed and built by a combination of sustainability experts, architects, solar experts and local and international tribe members. It is a beautiful, organic looking site located on the pristine beaches of John Obey. Visitors can expect to revil in usual beach activites, contribute to community projects such as building an orphanage in Tombo, the next town, enjoy delicious seafood banquets on the beach with the catch of the day and relax to the sound of the waves with a glass of local palm wine before retiring to their beach hut for a peacful and satisfied slumber. Waking with the sun, running on the beach before breakfast and getting ready to do it all over again.......

Just writing about makes me excited, 3 weeks to go to John Obey!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds very excting Eimer, go go go! Look forward to following your updates!